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THE ARTISTIC LIFE 299
tension. It is only necessary to point to the graceful sag in
the "radical" signifying a roof in Chinese characters to see
that this is no mere imagination of the author.
Our love for rhythmic or wavy lines or broken lines and our
hatred of straight, dead lines become obvious when it is
remembered that we have never perpetrated anything quite
as ugly as the Cleopatra's Needle. Some modern Chinese
architect has perpetrated a Western-styled lighthouse-shaped
thing called the West Lake Exhibition Memorial, and it stands
there amidst the beauties of West Lake like a sore on a beauty's
face, causing all sorts of eye troubles when one looks at it too
It would be easy to give examples of our devices to break
straight, dead lines. The best classic example is perhaps the
balustraded round bridge. The round bridge harmonizes
with nature, because it is in a curve and because it is balus-
traded. Its spans are not as long and its balustrades not as useful
as the steel trusses of the Brooklyn Bridge, but no one can deny
that it suggests less human cleverness and more beauty.
Consider also the pagoda, and how its entire beauty derives
from the fact that its outline is broken by a succession of
projecting roofs, especially those end-lines that curl upward
like the slanting strokes of Chinese writing. Consider also the
peculiar pair of stone pillars outside the Tienanmen at Peiping.
Nothing is more striking than the wavy-lined symbol of clouds
placed horizontally across the top on each pillar, resulting in a
form unparalleled in audacity even in Chinese art. The pillars
themselves have a wavy surface, whatever the pretext may be,
It happens that the waves represent clouds, but this is an
artistic pretext to introduce rhythm into the surface. The
stone pillars of the Temple of Confucius bear, too, the wavy
lines of the entwining dragons. Because the wavy lines of the
dragon's body help to break the straight lines, we find the
dragon constantly used as a useful decorative motive, apart
from its symbolic value.
Everywhere we try to catch and incorporate the natural
rhythm of nature and imitate its irregularity. The spirit
underlying it all is still the spirit of animism in calligraphy.
We break the lines of window bars by using green-glazed t3es